In southwest Taiwan, the rocks contain both methane and carbon dioxide. Many mud volcanoes spurt out gas.
If methane is released it can spontaneously combust on reaching the surface, which is the mechanism behind the famous “fire water grotto” in Guanzihling (關仔嶺). Carbon dioxide is also released, albeit in a less spectacular fashion. Thankfully, there have been no reports of either causing a catastrophe.
Naturally, CCS requires government regulation and supervision. Industry cannot be left to do as it pleases.
In the US and Canada seven regional carbon storage associations exist, involving business, industry and academia. In the UK, the EU and Australia there are organizations specifically established for this purpose. These advanced countries are all trying to capture this greenhouse gas and store it underground to tackle global warming.
The recent revelations of Taipower and CPC’s plans show that our energy sector is applying business principles and taking a responsible and proactive approach to CCS. They also demonstrate the strengths of Taiwan’s petroleum industry and geological surveys. We should be encouraging this, not criticizing it.
Government institutions like the Environmental Protection Administration should also introduce more legislation and supervision for all aspects of the geological storage of carbon dioxide — from carbon capture through transport to storage — as well as creating comprehensive legislation for every stage of the CCS life cycle: planning, construction, operation and decommissioning.
This will clarify the legal responsibilities of government and other organizations, and the emissions allowances. Together, this will lay the foundations for the commercialization of carbon storage and establish the required technical standards. This can then be used not only in Taiwan, but also exported to form a new energy sector.
We could also find international partners to join this venture — including China, which currently has real problems with carbon dioxide emissions and smog produced by burning coal.
If this catches on, we may even be able to postpone or evade the dangers of global warming.
Wei Kuo-yen is a professor of geosciences at National Taiwan University.
Translated by Paul Cooper